We’ve all done it. Got home from a busy day at work and threw dinner in the microwave. Perhaps it’s leftover lasagne that you’re reheating in plastic Tupperware, or maybe it’s a quick TV dinner that comes in a plastic tray. Sure, these foods are convenient, but have you ever stopped to think about the effects that heating your food up in plastic containers could be having on your health? Unfortunately, it’s more significant than you might think.

Dinner with a Side of Plastic

Every time you heat plastic in the microwave a little bit of the plastic, and the chemicals that it’s made of, gets into your food. That makes sense when you think about it, plastic is made by heating it up and then cooling it. So what happens when you heat it up again? It leaks plastic.

Unfortunately, plastics aren’t a neutral product. They’re full of chemicals like BPA and phthalates. Those chemicals can cause problems like reduced fertility, weight gain, and lower IQ in children

It’s not just microwaves that can cause leaching to happen, either. Research has shown that putting plastic through a dishwasher, or even leaving your water bottle out in the sun, can cause chemical leaching.

How do the Chemicals in Plastic Affect Our Health?

The chemicals that leach out of plastics are seriously bad news for our health. They’ve been shown to harm adults, children, and have particularly damaging effects on babies whilst they’re still in the womb. So, to all you pregnant mammas out there – it’s especially important to avoid plastics whilst you’ve got a bun in the oven.

Why are these chemicals so bad for our health? A lot of the chemicals inside of plastics, like BPA and phthalates, are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). This means that when they enter your body, they interfere with your endocrine system. Your endocrine system is essential for regulating your hormones and is involved in everything from your sleep to your reproductive health. Below you can see a summary of just some of the effects that BPA and phthalates may have on our health.

Male FertilityReduced testosteroneReduced sperm quality Reduced testosteroneErectile dysfunction Reduced sperm quality  
Female Fertility Irregular menstrual cyclesPCOSEndometriosis Disrupted ovarian function  
Thyroid Altered thyroid function Thyroid cancer  Thyroid cancer
WeightObesity in childrenObesity in adolescentsObesity in adultsObesity in elderly people  Obesity in adolescent girlsObesity in women
Diabetes  Type 2 diabetesType 2 diabetes
CancerBreast cancer Prostate cancer Cervical cancerBreast cancerWomb cancer Pancreatic cancerLiver cancer  
Brain function Altered brain development and functionReduced IQPoorer memoryADHD  
Death Increased risk of deathIncreased risk of death   

Plastic is Never Really Microwave Safe

‘Microwave safe’ simply means that a container won’t melt when you heat it up in a microwave. Whilst that’s good in the sense that you don’t want melted plastic all over your food, it doesn’t do much to protect you against the chemicals found inside the plastic. 

Unfortunately, even if a plastic container tells you its ‘BPA free’, research suggests it’s still likely to contain other hormone-altering chemicals that could leach into your food when heated. To be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid plastics altogether, whenever you can.

What You Should Do Instead

To reduce your exposure to the hormone-altering chemicals found inside plastics, you can follow these simple steps:

Don’t  Do
Microwave Your Food or Drinks in Plastic Containers  Choose Plastic-Free Tupperware Alternatives Like Glass
Put Plastic Containers Through the Dishwasher  Use a Plastic-Free Water Bottles, Stainless Steel and Glass are both clean
Store Your Food or Drinks in Plastic ContainersDon’t microwave other artificial materials, like styrofoam.Limit the Number of Microwave Dinners You Eat That Come in Plastic Trays

The simplest thing you can do is use sturdy glass containers and then put those in the microwave. Glass has no weird chemicals in it and glass can handle incredible heat before it starts to break down.

Overall, it’s clear that the endocrine disrupting chemicals that leach out of plastics can have serious health consequences for you and your family. Thankfully, avoiding these chemicals doesn’t have to be difficult. By making small, inexpensive changes to your everyday life, you can seriously limit the number of endocrine disruptors that are able to sneak into your diet. Ultimately, this will help you and your family live healthier, happier lives.